Hey, double-parkers and traffic-blockers: Councilman Mark Squilla has you in his sights.
While he can’t make you behave, he can push a bill that puts a higher price tag on your motorist misconduct. It is expected to sail through a City Council vote Thursday, and after it does, parking fines will go up.
I can hear the cynics howl that it’s just another City of Philadelphia Shakedown™, but this time I don’t agree — well, not completely. We’ve got trouble right here in River City, and the problem begins with a C that stands for congestion. Vehicular, that is. (Tip of the hat to The Music Man.)
Traffic congestion was getting so bad, the city recently started doing the unimaginable — enforcing traffic laws. I know, I know. I could barely believe it myself.
The congestion is caused, simply speaking, by #MeFirst people. They double park wherever they like, they park in loading zones, they take over bus stops, they stop in the middle of the street to make a delivery, they occupy handicap zones. They operate as if the rest of us exist to plump their pillows and fan their brows.
Squilla has issued a wakeup call to the lawless and self-important.
If enforcement were Act One, to continue the musical metaphor, Squilla’s Act Two will drive up the cost of misbehaving.
A few samples of fine increases aimed squarely at solving congestion: stopping where prohibited goes from $50 to $75; double parking doubles from $50 to $100; blocking the highway goes from $50 to $75; non-taxi using a taxi stand zooms from $35 to $100; obstructing a streetcar jumps from $40 to $100.
There are dozens more, and all are nonmoving offenses.
Why are you proposing this? I ask Squilla.
First, because the administration asked him to. That means Mayor Jim Kenney will sign the legislation into law and the law will take effect 60 days later.
The idea is to make “the city safer for people driving, walking, biking,” Squilla says. It is “to deter people from doing illegal things” and will “start to relieve congestion in the city.” Fingers crossed in hope of a good thing.
In May primary voting, Philadelphians approved an auxiliary police force that would enforce traffic laws. The request for the faux cops and the introduction of his bill developed “individually and separately,” says Squilla, but having a new force will be fortuitous, because higher fines mean squat without enforcement.
“We are human beings. If you do something and there are no consequences, you keep doing it,” says Squilla, who hopes the higher fines will be consequential, and a deterrent. He portrays his bill as “a pilot” that will impact only the guilty, the thoughtless and illegal parkers.
While the fines will jump dramatically in percentage terms, I wonder if the dollar amounts are high enough to really change behavior. If you are paying $50 for a weekly fill-up, a $100 fine might not get your attention. Maybe the fines should be even higher.
The bill contains a sunset provision that will end the pilot on Dec. 31, 2020, to allow lawmakers to assess its efficacy.
I ask Squilla if he can remember the last time an income-producing law actually had been killed.
“I can’t think of one,” he says with a laugh.